Archive for April, 2013

Comment on Draft Bay Area Housing and Transportation Plan from the convenience of your laptop or mobile device

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Comment on Draft Bay Area Housing and Transportation Plan from the convenience of your laptop or mobile device

Online participation tool makes it easy to comment

The Bay Area’s first ever combined transportation and land-use/housing plan, known as Plan Bay Area, is out for public review and comment. Sponsoring agencies — the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) — are urging Bay Area residents to weigh in with their priorities via Plan Bay Area Town Hall, <http://onebayarea.org/misc/open-town-hall.html>. This online platform is designed to prompt a conversation among the region’s residents on how our cities and towns should grow and the types of housing and transportation options that should be available for future generations.

The online tool is an effort to encourage a broader dialogue on regional transportation and land-use issues and involve residents who might not otherwise attend a traditional public meeting. The online forum summarizes and links to each chapter of the Draft Plan, then offers a convenient opportunity for the public to comment. Officials will read the statements and incorporate them into the decision-making process.

We want the public to be part of the process,” said Amy Rein Worth, MTC’s Chair. “This is an incredibly cost-effective way to empower residents to participate in regional decisions from the convenience of their laptop, mobile device or desktop computer.”

About Plan Bay Area

Nearly three years in the making, Plan Bay Area is an integrated long-range transportation and land-use/housing plan that will support a growing economy, provide more housing and transportation choices, and reduce transportation-related pollution in the San Francisco Bay Area. The effort grew out of 2008 California Legislation (Senate Bill 375, Steinberg) requiring each of the state’s 18 metropolitan areas — including the Bay Area — to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks.

Plan Bay Area builds upon prior work at the local level and prepares us to be more competitive in the private sector, more efficient in the public sector, and preserves the values that we love about the Bay Area for current and future generations,” noted ABAG President and Napa County Supervisor Mark Luce, who represents ABAG on MTC. “This is a bottoms-up plan that recognizes the diversity of Bay Area communities. Cities and counties identified the best places for growth to preserve the character of existing neighborhoods and protect agricultural lands,” he added. The plan will be updated every four years to reflect new information and emerging priorities.

Multiple Opportunities to Comment

A series of open houses and public hearings is also under way to take public comment, or residents may mail comments to MTC-ABAG, Plan Bay Area Public Comment, 101 8th Street, Oakland, CA 94607. Comments are being accepted through 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 16, 2013. A final plan is slated for adoption in July. For more information on Plan Bay Area, visit OneBayArea.org.

MTC is the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area’s transportation planning, coordinating and financing agency. For more information, visit www.mtc.ca.gov. ABAG is the council of governments and regional planning agency for the nine counties and 101 cities and towns of the San Francisco Bay region. For more information, visit www.abag.ca.gov.

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Learn the benefits of becoming a Green Certified Business

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Learn how sustainability and pollution prevention can help reduce operating costs while at the same time have less impact on the environment.

Join us for Coffee with the Chamber May 16, 2013

“Learn the benefits of becoming a Green Certified Business”

Speaker: Mr. Paris Greenlee, P.E., Pollution Prevention Manager
Contra Costa Environmental Health
Green Business Program

Date: Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Time: 8:30am – 10:00am

Where: Antioch Chamber of Commerce Offices

101 H Street, Unit 4, Antioch

Bring plenty of business cards, a pen and paper! Look forward to seeing you there!

For more information visit www.AntiochChamber.com or call (925) 757-1800.

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Has Brown Administration Cancelled Cost-Benefit Analysis of Peripheral Tunnels?

Monday, April 29th, 2013

No Cost-Benefit Analysis of No-Tunnels Alternative; Hiding the Cost so Taxpayers Won’t Know What They’ll Pay, What They’ll Get in Return?

By Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Campaign Director, Restore the Delta

SACRAMENTO, CA – Restore the Delta (RTD), a coalition opposed to the Brown Administration’s rush to construct massive Peripheral Tunnels to take millions of acre-feet of water from the Delta, today said the Brown Administration appears to have canceled a comprehensive benefit-cost analysis of its BDCP proposal for Peripheral Tunnels to export Sacramento -San Joaquin/San Francisco Bay-Delta water, mainly to benefit unsustainable mega-farms on the west side of the Central Valley. The decision to hide the total costs from public scrutiny once again reveals how the Brown Administration is continuing to doctor up the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, a fatally flawed plan, in order to sell it as something that it’s not to Californians.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta said, “In refusing to conduct a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of the Peripheral Tunnels, the Brown Administration is not following the guidelines established by its own agencies. In its rush to build a project that would exterminate salmon runs, destroy sustainable family farms and saddle taxpayers with tens of billions in debt, mainly to benefit a small number of huge corporate agribusinesses on the west side of the Central Valley, the Administration has yet to complete a valid cost-benefit analysis of its Tunnels and seriously examine a no-tunnels solution. It’s little wonder the Brown Administration is backing away from a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis. The only one done to date showed the costs were $7 billion short of the costs.”

Univ. of the Pacific economist Dr. Jeffrey Michael noticed the change and reported it on his blog. The Administration had contracted with the Brattle Group to perform a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of the BDCP. The Brown Administration is rigging analysis of the proposal by refusing to include a no-tunnels alternative, and excluding some costs that would fall on water ratepayers. Now, they have backed away from a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis and plan to dump partial and incomplete studies on the public. How many water ratepayers will examine 6 partial studies and synthesize their results into a full picture of who pays how much and who benefits how much? They are counting on no one doing that analysis – one that is their duty and obligation to conduct.

“This project will cost billions upon billions of dollars to give ever-increasing amounts of taxpayer and ratepayer subsidized water to corporate agriculture and real estate developers to make millions upon millions in profits. California will not go dry without these tunnels. There are no guarantees that southern California residents will even receive more water,” said Barrigan-Parrilla.

Barrigan-Parrilla said the Brown Administration doesn’t want the true cost of the project known, “The ‘tunnels’ represent more than simply a transfer of good quality water around the Delta. They also represent the largest transfer of private wealth in our history.”

The common people will pay for the tunnels and a few people will make millions. It will turn a Delta waterway, already in crisis, into a sewer pipe. It will be bad for the fish, the ocean and the people of California.

“BDCP is still not considering any alternatives for meeting the coequal goals except the peripheral tunnels, although there are several that could be evaluated,” added Barrigan-Parrilla.

However, in a letter to State Legislators from California Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird, “The alternative of a 3,000 cubic feet per second Delta conveyance – which the Portfolio-Based Conceptual Alternative calls for – will be studied in this process. As with all 15 alternatives that we are studying in this EIR process, it will be evaluated against the co-equal goals, as well as other goals including reliability in the face of an extreme event.”

The eight-point alternative being pushed by Congressman George Miller, who represents part of Antioch in the U.S. House of Representatives, which can be read by clicking here, includes the 3,000 cfs Delta conveyance, instead of the two-tunnel plan which will move 9,000 cfs.

For more information on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, visit http://baydeltaconservationplan.com/Home.aspx.   For more information on Restore the Delta, visit www.restorethedelta.org.

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Frazier defends Delta in response to state official’s comments that it “cannot be saved,” McNerney calls for resignation

Monday, April 29th, 2013

By Allen Payton

Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) released the following statement today in response to reported comments from California Natural Resources Deputy Director Jerry Meral that “BDCP is not about, and has never been about saving the Delta. The Delta cannot be saved.”

I am appalled by the reported statement from the Deputy Director. This confirms what many of us in the Delta region have long suspected: that BDCP is not about Delta restoration, it’s about Southern California water interests.

For those of us who live, work, and play on the Delta, there is no doubt that ‘conveyance’ means the decimation of the Delta as a critical resource, and a devastating impact on the communities that depend on it, including the habitat that the Delta sustains.”

However, according to an article on the Huffington Post, “The Brown administration…defended …Meral and said his words were taken out of context.

Advocates Tom Stokely and Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla said Meral’s comments were made during a casual conversation with Stokely at an April 15 event.

According to Barrigan-Parrilla, head of Stockton-based Restore the Delta, Meral said that the Bay Delta Conservation Plan is not about saving the Delta, and that the Delta cannot be saved. She said Friday that she was standing a short distance away when she heard the comments, and wrote them down. Stokely said Friday that her account is correct.

A Resources spokesman said Meral’s comments were taken out of context during a discussion about the ‘potentially calamitous threats’ the Delta faces from sea level rise, earthquakes and levee failures.

Both advocates said Meral had been talking about his concern that a mega-flood could someday swamp the Central Valley, as it did in 1861-62.”

In response to Meral’s comments, five Democrat members of Congress whose districts cover portions of the California Delta, including Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, who also represents most of Antioch, have called on Governor Brown for Meral’s immediate resignation.

According to an article in the Stockton Record, “It’s not surprising that opponents of the administration’s water plan would exploit and politicize out-of-context comments ‘reported’ by a longtime critic of the project,” Resources spokesman Richard Stapler said in an email. “The administration remains deeply committed to maintaining a healthy Delta ecosystem.”

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On Shore with Obamacare: On Board with Medicare- Part A

Monday, April 29th, 2013
Jeff Belle

Jeff Belle

By Jeff Belle

The value Americans place on having choices, extending life and ensuring quality of care are critical considerations in how the U. S. health care delivery system meets the needs of its citizens. Failure on part of policymakers to recognize this will result in lack of support for “radical changes” in the health care system—even if its intent is noble. In order to discover new oceans, one has to leave the shore. In 2010, we boarded a new voyage-“ Affordable Care Act” (ACA) with the intent of improving health care for all U. S. citizens. The ship has left shore and headed into deep waters beginning next year (2014). Medicare and Medicaid as we know it today will never look the same beginning 2014. Are we on the right course? Is the U.S. health care system treading into dangerous waters? Have we gone too far to turn the ship around? Is our health care system headed into uncharted territories?

Let’s go on board and look at Medicare-the nation’s health insurance program for Americans 65 and older, and for young adults with permanent disabilities. As the U.S. population grows older, 52 million people currently relying on Medicare will increase drastically. Medicare has four parts, each covering different benefits. Part A-Hospital Insurance (HI) program covers inpatient hospital services, skilled nursing facilities, home health, and hospice care. Part A is funded by a tax of 2.9 percent of earnings paid by employers and workers (1.45 percent each). Obamacare increased the Medicare HI payroll tax from 1.45% to 2.35% for higher-income taxpayers ($200,000/individual and $250,000/couple) and businesses. This tax went into effect last January. Most individuals do not pay a monthly premium for Part A services, but are subject to a deductible before Medicare coverage begins.

Beneficiaries are generally subject to a coinsurance for benefits covered under Part A. Although Medicare Part A imposes tax increases on those earning $200,000 or more and businesses, there is no such thing as a free lunch. In fact, BIG, BIG changes occur in Medicare Parts B, C, & D.

Unlike Part A, Part B deals with outpatient hospital care, physician visits, and other medical services. There are significant changes in Medicare Part B. I will devote next month’s entire column on Medicare Part B. If you think that Medicare changes are confusing, we dare not open the door to Medicaid changes! Now that you have boarded the voyage-ACA, you are well on your way to a new destiny. Today, skies are sunny and blue; however, forecast indicates thunderstorms are ahead and some are even predicting a tsunami over the horizon. One thing that’s certain– you will never see the shores of yesterday’s health care system again.

Source: Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Jeff Belle is a senior fellow at Institute for Public Policy and Leadership Development. He researches, writes and lectures on health policy and leadership development issues.

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Watchdog warns of more tax increases

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Watchdog-LogoBy Barbara Zivica

Last year Governor Brown’s Prop. 30, which received 55% approval, increased the state sales tax from 7.25 to 7.5% but if you think you’re taxed to the max now, just wait.

State lawmakers are contemplating ballot measures in Alameda and Contra Costa County asking voters to again double the county transportation sales tax from a half cent to one cent. ( The current rate in Contra Costa is a half cent and was last renewed by voters in 2004 (Measure J). Ironically, neither Alameda or Contra Costa County can seek a sales tax increase because doing so would put some cities about the current sales tax cap set by the state. Not to worry, however, a legislator has, of course, already introduced a bill exempting Alameda and Contra Costa County from the cap through 2020.

Nor do I doubt that Chief Daryl Louder of the Contra Costa Fire Dept., who is retiring soon, will persuade the Board of Supervisors, who will soon be voting on a budget proposal that includes the closure of two more fire stations, to endorse another Contra Costa Fire District parcel tax ballot measure. Last year’s attempt failed. Note, however, that plans for building a new fire station in Lafayette and Orinda are moving ahead.

Here at home in Antioch, our City Council has been busily trying to ramp up support for two revenue ballot measures e.g. a sales tax increase and a business license tax which would apply to rental housing despite seeing strong sales tax growth and a rebounding housing market. According to the City Finance Director current fiscal year projections indicate a healthy fund balance of almost $8.5M, significantly higher than the adopted FY13 budget, equating to an unassigned fund balance of 20.94% which exceeds the fund balance policy target of 15%.

According to the City Finance Director, the city wants more money because “FY14 presents new challenges for the City Council to begin to address as costs of goods and services are beginning to rise and salary increases begin to take effect in the current fiscal year.”

As I pointed out before, this didn’t stop council from restoring more lucrative pension benefits or defer payments from the Antioch Golf Corporation for two construction loans e.g. a $222,165 parking lot improvement loan and a clubhouse construction loan of $900,000 until after they repay an ABAG loan. Council also approved utilizing current funding for construction of a restroom facility at the Marina Boat Launch Facility which proved to be more costly than anticipated. The city will seek an additional $245,000 in grant funding from the state Dept. of Boating and Waterways which might not be forthcoming.

Additionally, Council hired a few consultants e.g. Stacey McLaughlin of Mountaintop Insight to assist in “team building and governance training” and Michael Bernick, who, I was informed, handles a range of issues for the City related to transportation and land use planning grants and other funding opportunities, to work with the Antioch Chamber of Commerce on a micro loan program called Kiva Zip.

Kiva.org., founded in 2005 and headquartered in San Francisco, is a non profit organization that allows people to make interest free loans via the Internet to people in developing countries. Kiva launched a more direct peer to peer micro lending platform, called Kiva Zip in 2012. Currently Kiva Zip borrowers do not pay any interest or fees. Kiva Zip is considered an experimental platform, and offers loans in the United States and in Kenya. Sean Wright, the chamber’s chairman, said he was told there isn’t another chamber or municipality trying to use Kiva Zip although private firms and nonprofits use the program. The City of Antioch should not be participant in this endeavor.

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Payton Perspective: Antioch should consider contracting with private security firms to improve public safety and save tax money

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

I believe it’s time APayton Perspective logontioch leaders thought outside the box when it comes to improving our public safety.

One way to do that is to contract with private security firms at a much lower cost per person. Many of their employees are retired police officers and former military personnel and have some level of training. Make them Reserve Officers so they can carry a gun, drive a police car and respond, not just report a crime. Instead of $120,000 a year we could get an officer on the street for about $50,000.

As the Council considers which way to increase revenue to the city to afford to hire the additional police personnel we need – as we are down to staffing levels as they were in 1995 during my first year on the City Council, to which we added 19 officers in the following three years – they need to find a way to provide an increased level of service for less money.

The additional presence in the community of officers patrolling neighborhoods, shopping centers and streets will help drive down crime.

That was the intent when I first proposed the Volunteers In Public Safety when I was on the Council. While the current VIPS do a good job in the areas they’ve been assigned, they don’t patrol in police cars as I was hoping, and therefore don’t provide the same police presence that would serve as a deterrent to crime.

I’ve been told this idea of contracting to private security firms is ahead of it’s time. Perhaps so. But, I believe it must be considered and the City should be innovative and find a way to implement it.

The Council, working with Chief Allan Cantando, can set training standards that the private security employees would have to meet.

In addition, the City should implement a vetting process that would evaluate qualified private contractors before selecting, “approved” vendors. Selection criteria would include, licensing, training, minimum insurance coverage, pending/prior civil action, past experience in similar scope of duty, etc.

Qualified security contactors could augment the police by handling all “B” priority calls such as, alarm response, prisoner transports, suspicious persons calls, trespassing, loitering, vandalism reports and any other quality of life issues that negatively impact our community.

Private security firms currently patrol City parks and provide campus safety at several schools in the Antioch district. Their mere presence alone at these venues has affected significant reductions in police service calls and allowed the police to focus their efforts on more critical issues elsewhere in the City.

The Council should study this option, before putting whatever tax measure they plan to place on the November ballot, in order to reduce the total amount of the tax.

Antioch should and must be a leader in finding lower cost, creative ways to reduce crime, and now. We can’t wait for any more increases to violent crime, robberies of our residents, homes or businesses. The time to act is now.

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Antioch school district hopes to save millions by going solar

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

By James Ott

Antioch’s school district could save millions in energy costs and gain funding for new education initiatives if it decides to go with a plan to add solar panels to it’s school sites.

Three companies combined to give a presentation about the benefits of solar to the school board at their March 27 meeting. After the presentation the board voted to allow them to do a feasibility study and secure $30 million in bonds from the state that would help pay for the solar panels.

Bob Redlinger, a senior manager at 25-year-old solar company SunPower led the talks, saying that the school could save nearly $70 million in energy costs over the next 25 years from installing it’s solar panels. After paying $34 million back in bonds to pay for the construction and maintenance of the panels the district could expect a $35 million net savings to their general fund, Redlinger said. After that, he said that the district will continue to save millions in energy costs and have schools that are energy independent.

Redlinger presented a mock-up of Deer Valley High School as an example of how SunPower’s solar panels may be implemented into Antioch schools. Solar panels would be placed on the roof of the school and over parking lots and outdoor assembly areas to provide shade in addition to power. The initial energy production of the solar system could produce 2,110,619 kilowatts and hour and pick up 76 percent of the large schools’ entire energy usage. Increasing the size and efficiency of the system could do even better, according to Redlinger’s presentation, making the school entirely energy independent and erasing the entire $457,927 energy bill the district pays to run high school each year.

Steve Nielsen of financial consultant company MuniBond Solar would handle financing for the solar project and said that Antioch Unified could get the entire program going with no “out of pocket” expenses. This is possible because the district has applied for $30 million in Qualified Zone Academy Bonds, (QZABs) through the California Department of Energy. $98 million in QZABs were authorized by the state in January of this year to help pay for alternative energy projects at California schools.

Nielsen said he expects the QZABs to come with a 17 to 20 year term with a low interest rate of around 1.5 percent. He praised the QZABs simple structure and low cost.

“These [QZABs] are somewhat comparable to a really low fixed-rate home mortgage,” said Neilsen. “And it doesn’t require a direct repayment from taxpayers because payments will come out of the district’s general fund.”

If the district decides to go with SunPower and MuniBond Solar they will also get the services of Project Lead The Way, (PLTW), – a company that specializes in developing so called STEM, (science, technology, engineering and math), curricula for middle and high schools.

Dr. Duane Crum represented PLTW at the meeting and said that his company “provides rigorous, hands-on curricula and intense professional development in STEM disciplines.” STEM education has become popular in K-12 schools as the world economy moves to more technology laden jobs that require a more educated workforce.

Crum said that PLTW has over 500,000 students taking it’s courses in all 50 states including some at Antioch High School. As part of the solar panel project PLTW will develop and implement STEM academies with hopes to better educate Antioch youth in those disciplines. SunPower also plans to link it’s solar panels to modules and labs where students can conduct physical experiments.

Crum said that PLTW will provide up to $3.1 million in matched in-kind funding to pay for the program.

If the school board decides to move forward and approves a contract with the three companies at the June 12 board meeting, Redlinger said that the they can start the design and development of the project that same month. They then will began construction in July 2013 while simultaneously training teachers and implementing the PLTW STEM curriculum.

If all goes well the plan is to energize the solar panels as early as the mid-year, 2014.

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